PC market improvement on the horizon

For the second straight quarter, shipment growth was negative, but not as bad as initially expected.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
2 min read

There are more encouraging signs that the worst might be over for the PC industry.

For the second straight quarter, PC shipments worldwide were better than expected. Desktop and notebook shipments for the second quarter of 2009 decreased 3.1 percent from the same time a year ago, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, released Wednesday. Though it's still negative growth, it's being read as a positive sign since analysts were expecting a 6.3 percent drop.

Combined with Intel's better than expected earnings Tuesday, and Dell's pronouncement that demand for computers is stabilizing, the industry looks ripe for a turnaround soon.

"I think we're moving out of it," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's PC Tracker study. "We're still in negative growth, but we saw better growth than we did in the first quarter. That bodes pretty well for growth going forward."

The improvement was felt worldwide, with each region meeting or surpassing industry analysts' expectations. Though those expectations were indeed fairly low to start with, the fact that all of the regions performed adequately is a good sign, Loverde noted.

Acer continued to outpace the field, growing its shipments worldwide 23.7 percent. It's now right on Dell's tail, competing for second-largest PC maker with 12.7 percent of the overall market.

Dell is hanging in there with 13.7 percent of all computers shipped, and did make some progress with new notebook designs and Netbooks during the quarter. But as it slips farther behind perennial leader Hewlett-Packard (with 19.8 percent of PCs shipped) and tries to stay ahead of Acer, its weakness in those areas are coming into focus. Acer has been able to exploit an area Dell has not paid much attention to until recently.

"It's really evidence of growth the of consumer portables, which has not been a Dell focus or strength, and it has been an Acer focus and strength," noted Loverde. "Combined with Acer's much broader distribution, particularly in Europe, and also their fairly rapid expansion and much smaller focus on the US., Acer will continue to grow faster than the market."

But there are still challenges for Acer, who is much smaller than Dell or HP, and tends to focus on lower-priced notebooks, which means it could have trouble moving into higher-margin products later.

Lenovo continues to be in fourth place, with 8.7 percent of PCs shipped, followed by Toshiba, with 5.3 percent of the market. Toshiba experienced the next-best growth after Acer (10.5 percent for the second quarter) on the strength of its move into Netbooks, which are selling particularly well in Japan.